Job seekers would do well to follow sound tips for filling out job applications, for the job application is the most crucial document the candidate provides when seeking a new job. It determines whether the firm short-lists the candidate for further selection rounds or rejects the candidate.
The apparent purpose of job applications is to provide employers with basic candidate information such as education and experience in a standardized format that makes comparing candidates easy. The application form, however, conveys much more and is actually a statement of the candidate’s personality and disposition.
The first of these job application tips is to follow instructions exactly as specified by the employer. The employer provides
specifications for a good reason, and the candidate who cannot follow this first and simplest of instruction is unlikely to convince the employer that he can follow detailed and more important job-related instructions later on.
Candidates would do well to read the instructions carefully at the onset, collecting all the required information before starting to fill out the form.
Other common considerations for candidates include:
- Writing and not typing if the instruction specifies to complete the application in the candidate’s own handwriting.
- Attaching the required supporting documents, and not attaching supporting documents if specifically prohibited from doing so.
- Adhering to the specified format such as listing work experience in chronological order, starting from most recent, followed by educational qualifications, and so forth.
- Including all required information. Inability to include any required information or attachment needs to be mentioned as a note, citing the reasons for non-inclusion and the time required to furnish the information or document.
- Omit uncalled-for information unless such information is a major plus or achievement, or is very relevant to impressing the employer and demonstrating the suitability for the position.
- Meeting deadlines. Most companies of repute do not consider late applications, and those companies that fail to comply with their own laid-down standards are probably not worth working for anyway.
Spelling, Grammar, and Formatting
The most ignored of all tips on filling out a job application is ensuring correct spelling, grammar, and formatting. Many candidates fail to treat the application form with the importance it deserves and make some careless mistakes. Such mistakes highlight the candidate’s non-serious approach to the application and give the impression that the candidate would approach the job in a similar manner.
Important considerations for the candidate include:
- Using the spell-check and grammar-check facility in the word processor always, and if writing by hand, checking unfamiliar words in a dictionary.
- Writing in active instead of passive tense.
- Using simple words, avoiding jargons and phrases.
- Using simple and common fonts or writing legibly.
- Proof-reading the application for mistakes before submission. The best approach is making a draft first, making the corrections, and taking a fine print.
- Using whiteners for minor mistakes, and using a new form for major or lengthy corrections in handwritten applications
Customize Information without Lying
Most companies undertake a stringent background or reference check before hiring; such background checks invariably expose lies such as false work experience, false designations, forged certificates, and the like. Even if one happens to get away with a lie or forgery at the application stage, it can always come back to haunt the candidate at a later stage. Most companies have a zero tolerance policy toward people who lie, and the punishment for the same is instant dismissal. Forgery is a criminal offense.
The alternative to lying is to customize the available information to the situation in a positive tone.
Ways to do so include:
- Highlighting only the relevant duties or accomplishments in the work experience.
- Omitting negative information, and when inevitable, providing brief or vague description. For instance, writing “job ended" is an alternative to “fired" in the job application. The interview is the place for clarification with supporting explanations.
- Providing details of skills and accomplishments from all sources such as previous jobs, schools, clubs, and other entities instead of listing duties and responsibilities of previous jobs.
While tailoring information to suit the specific application, the key is to ensure consistency of information. This includes dates, names, titles, and other details in the application form, resume, and supporting documents.
The primary consideration while filling out a job application is to make the short-list to the second round, usually the interview or a written test. The information contained in the job application will nevertheless remain crucial, not just during the selection process but also during the tenure of employment.
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